Covid-19: Health staff in plea for better protection

file picture of person using PPE

More than 20 healthcare organisations, including those representing nurses, doctors, surgeons and therapists, are calling for stricter UK guidelines to be introduced on face masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE).

In a virtual meeting with officials, they will say existing rules leave them vulnerable to infection through the air, especially by new Covid variants.

The unprecedented appeal will see them argue that other countries, such as the United States, protect their health workers with higher-grade equipment.

It is thought to be the first time health and care organisations have united on a single issue in this way – a sign of the desperation many feel about the need for staff to be kept safe.

The delegation will include representatives of the British Medical Association, the Royal College of Nursing and many other professional organisations and unions.

On the government side will be about 20 of the most senior officials from all four UK nations, many involved in setting the guidelines on personal protective equipment (PPE).

picture of person using a surgical mask

What do health and care workers want?

With an estimated 1,000 health and care workers killed by Covid in the UK, the plea is for the risks of airborne transmission to be recognised in hospitals and other care settings.

That means all staff caring for Covid patients being issued with masks specifically designed to guard against infectious aerosols.

The US government is among many that require health workers to wear what are called N95 respirators – widely judged to be more effective than the standard-issue surgical masks mandated in the UK.

“It is the inconsistency that is getting beyond a joke,” according to Dr Barry Jones, a leading figure in the campaign, who will be presenting evidence at the meeting.

He and his colleagues in the nutritional care association BAPEN first raised their concerns with Public Health England as far back as April last year.

Face masks compared

They objected to the strict guidance that means that only certain procedures considered likely to generate aerosols entitle staff to a high standard of mask known as an FFP3.

They say there is a growing body of research highlighting how other processes – including simply breathing and coughing – can produce far more aerosols than those on the official list.

“If a patient is breathing 12 times a minute and you’re providing close quarters care for them for 15 minutes or more, then the chances are you will get a large dose of the virus if you are just in a surgical mask,” Dr Jones told me.

“If the present guidelines were effective, why have we had such a high death rate among the public, and health and care staff?”

Source – BBC News

Mark Lambert
Author: Mark Lambert

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